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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 
Losing wars that aren't wars

by digby

I was wondering when somebody was going to write this:
Pardon my cynicism, but the “war on terror” (aka “war on violent extremism”) is reminding me more and more of the disastrous U.S. “war on drugs.” That latter campaign, we now know, has been a costly and counter-productive debacle. The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to interdict drug shipments, eradicate poppy and coca fields in foreign countries, and round up drug dealers and users here at home, with hardly any lasting or meaningful successes. Narcotics producers just relocate to new areas or develop new products, and smugglers find new routes to bring drugs into the United States, leaving the level of drug abuse largely unchanged. After four decades, the main achievement of the war on drugs was giving the “Land of the Free” the world’s largest prison population.

Similarly, the broad U.S. effort to address the threat from al Qaeda and its like-minded successors seems to be lurching from failure to failure. Indeed, the entire U.S. approach to the greater Middle East has been a costly series of missteps, which is why some of us have called for a fundamental rethinking of the whole U.S. approach. The GOP would like to blame the current mess on U.S. President Barack Obama, but U.S. Middle East policy is a bipartisan cock-up going back more than 20 years.

I would suggest it goes back even further to the neoconservatism obsession with rogue states in the 1980s which blinded them to the threats from non-state actors.

The author of the piece, Stephen walt, outlines all the similarities between the two failed "wars" that don't make sense, but his last one really gets to the problem:

The final reason for recurring failure is the tendency to rely on the same people, no matter what their past track records have been. We’ve seen a revolving door of (unsuccessful) Middle East peace negotiators who then spend their retirements giving advice on how future peace negotiations should be conducted. We’ve got a CIA director who’s been centrally involved in U.S. counterterrorism policy since the early 1990s, and who continues to enjoy the president’s confidence despite a dodgy relationship with the truth and a conspicuous lack of policy success. We’ve got famous generals who were better at self-promotion than at winning wars, yet whose advice on what to do today is still eagerly sought. And of course we’ve got a large community of hawkish pundits offering up the same bellicose advice, with no acknowledgement of how disastrously their past recommendations have fared. The result is that U.S. policy continues to run on the same familiar tracks, and with more or less the same unhappy results.

Just like the war on drugs.
And there's little reason to believe there's any prospect of change. If you read James Risen's new book you'll know that all the incentives go the other way.

.